Hewden, one of the UK’s largest equipment rental businesses, has gone into administration, with competitor Ashtead Group quickly acquiring its powered access, power and industrial ‘on-site’ businesses plus the Hewden brand for £29 million.
Hewden’s other activities, largely its crane rental and earthmoving equipment operations, remain under the control of administrators EY.
Hewden had earlier said that it was trying to attract backing to refinance £190 million of debt, stating that trading activity had been adversely impacted by the Brexit vote, which had had an impact on major capital projects. It called in the administrators on Tuesday.
According to reports, the sale of the three divisions to Ashtead will save around 130 jobs, while 250 jobs have been lost, with the administrator keeping on 350 staff as it seeks buyers for the rest of the business.
The divisions acquired by Ashtead will join its UK business A-Plant, whose chief executive, Sat Dhaiwal, said; “This acquisition significantly enhances A-Plant's offering in the industrial sector where we have been keen to develop our capabilites for some time.
“We are pleased to be taking over a number of important on-site depots at major petrochemical facilities and will ensure that a high level of service is maintained for all customers through the integra on process. I would also like to welcome those Hewden employees who will be joining A‐Plant as part of this process."
The demise of the Hewden business – if not the name – is a dramatic development for the UK’s plant hire industry. Hewden is one of the most famous names in UK plant, with roots going back many decades and with a particular affinity to Glasgow, where it was headquartered for many years.
More recently the business moved to Manchester and has had a chequered recent history. It was sold to Finning over a decade ago as part of Caterpillar’s push into rental, but was sold by Finning to a private equity company some years ago.
Hewden used to have a large tool hire operation, but that was sold to Speedy, with Hewden focusing on cranes, aerial platforms, power and on—site locations at major industrial plants.